Purpose: Mesothelin is a glycoprotein expressed on normal mesothelial cells and is overexpressed in several histologic types of tumors including pancreatic adenocarcinomas. A soluble form of mesothelin has been detected in patients with ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma, and has prognostic value. Mesothelin has also been considered as a target for immune-based therapies. We conducted a study on the potential clinical utility of mesothelin as a biomarker for pancreatic disease and therapeutic target pancreatic cancer. Experimental Design: Tumor cell-bound and soluble mesothelin in patients was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and ELISA, respectively. The in vitro cellular immune response to mesothelin was evaluated by INFγ ELISA and intracellular cytokine staining for IFNγ in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. The level of circulating antibodies to mesothelin was measured by ELISA. Results: All tumor tissue from patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma expressed mesothelin (n = 10). Circulating mesothelin protein was detected in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (73of 74 patients) and benign pancreatic disease (5 of 5) but not in healthy individuals. Mesothelin-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were generated from peripheral blood lymphocytes of patients with pancreatic cancer in 50% of patients compared with only 20% of healthy individuals. Antibodies reactive to mesothelin were detected in <3% of either patients or healthy individuals. Conclusions: Circulating mesothelin is a useful biomarker for pancreatic disease. Furthermore, mesothelin-specific T cells can be induced in patients with pancreatic cancer. This suggests that mesothelin is a potential target for immune-based intervention strategies in pancreatic cancer.
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